Turnkey Search Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Carolina Panthers

The NFL and its teams continue to turn to specialist recruiters to fill top C-suite roles. The Carolina Panthers are the latest, enlisting sports specialists Turnkey Search to fill their top marketing role. Let’s take a look inside this important assignment.

February 25, 2019 – Turnkey Search, a subsidiary of Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, has placed Meredith Starkey as chief marketing officer of the Carolina Panthers. She begins her new role later next month. Senior recruiter Allie Crone led the assignment.

Ms. Starkey joins an elite and growing group of women in C-level positions across the sports industry. “The Panthers are laser focused on gender equity and overall diversity,” said Len Perna, the search firm’s CEO. “We need more teams like the Panthers. Female stars like Meredith won’t jump to team-side unless they know ownership is serious about empowering these roles. This ownership gets it and that’s going to benefit the Panthers, the Carolinas and the NFL.”

In her role with the Panthers, Ms. Starkey will be responsible for leading all integrated marketing and communication functions, including brand development, marketing and regional market penetration.

The Panthers are gaining a proven marketing leader. Ms. Starkey has nearly 20 years of experience building brands. She comes to the Panthers after nearly 10 years at T-Mobile, where she was vice president of marketing for sponsorships and events. Prior to joining T-Mobile, she held sponsorship marketing positions at Motorola and Genesco Sports Enterprises. Ms. Starkey brings an expertise in building integrated brand communication and sponsorship strategies, customer acquisition and loyalty, creative development, production, research and insight.

“We are delighted to have Meredith join our leadership team,” said team president Tom Glick. “She is a proven difference maker in our industry and understands fans and how to deliver special moments, memories and experiences to continue to fuel their passion. As we strive to do more for our fans, partners and communities across the Carolinas, Meredith’s command of the fundamentals and drive to innovate will help us get it right.”

Mr. Glick himself was placed into his position just four months ago by Turnkey Search following the resignation of Danny Morrison. Mr. Perna led that search assignment.


Chief Marketing Officers Gaining Momentum as Business Game Changers
Today’s CMO works with the CEO to accelerate the organization and drive transformation. CMOs also collaborate with other members of the C-suite, especially with a company’s top HR executive to shape the company brand. 


“This was an opportunity to go someplace that offered organizational leadership, the opportunity to help build a new culture,” Ms. Starkey said. “And with new ownership, you could already see that there’s a big vision for the future.”

More than 1,000 Placements

Founded in 1996, Turnkey Search is a specialized talent recruitment/executive search firm focused on recruiting C-level, senior-level and mid-management level talent for sports, entertainment and media enterprises. Over the past 20-plus years, Turnkey Search has filled more than 1,000 positions across these three sectors. The search firm helps teams, leagues, stadiums, arenas, theaters, college athletic departments, events, sponsors, agencies, media companies, private equity firms and other clients identify, recruit and hire top management talent.

Related: Recruiting Overseas Leaders to U.S. Sports Teams Heats Up

Mr. Perna, founder, president and CEO, manages all aspects of Turnkey Search. A top executive in the sports industry since 1985, he began his sports industry career as a business attorney for Cap Cities ABC/ESPN and also served as a top executive for the Detroit Red Wings/Tigers and the Dallas Stars/Texas Rangers.

Turnkey’s clients include the University of Alabama, the Atlanta Hawks, CitiGroup, the University of Denver, Louisiana State University, the University of Michigan, the Milwaukee Brewers, the University of Mississippi, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the University of Nebraska, the Oakland Raiders, Richard Childress Racing, RocNation, Rutgers University, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Temple University, Ticketmaster, Townsquare Media, the United Center, VStar Entertainment Group and the Washington Nationals.

Finding Marketing Executives

Turnkey has placed dozens of marketing executives across the full landscape of sports, sports media and entertainment. Recently, the firm was selected by the San Francisco 49ers to lead its search for a new chief marketing officer. Managing director Diana Busino is spearheading the search along with Ms. Crone.

Related: DHR Recruits Chief Marketing Officer for Under Armour

“The 49ers engaged us to find a true marketing leader who can tell the story of this iconic franchise and continue to leverage the pioneering/innovation culture of the brand and Silicon Valley and the Bay area,” said Ms. Busino. “In short, the 49ers need a highly-collaborative, partnership-driven CMO to support corporate partners, community partners, as well as internal and philanthropic stakeholders.”


NFL Taps Hanold Associates to Find CHRO
Chicago-based Hanold Associates has kicked off its search for the National Football League’s next chief human resources officer. The front-office opening is a vital one for an organization that is among the top professional sports leagues in the world.


Turnkey has also been in charge of finding other top marketing executives within the NFL, including with the Atlanta Falcons (AMB Group), Buffalo Bills (and Sabres), Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Related: Executive Recruiters Continue Their Expansion into the Sports Industry

“Turnkey believes that certain roles inside sports leagues, teams and properties are ripe for candidates from outside sports,” said Ms. Crone. “Marketing is a perfect place to add innovation, creativity, diversity of thought and background by searching outside sports and entertainment, for example at brands, agencies, etc. That said, you have to be careful to make certain that the body doesn’t reject the transplanted organ.”

“A top Fortune 500 marketer may be incredible with the resources of a Fortune 500 company, but unable to adapt to the lean, mean, marketing machine found on the property side where we mostly rely on marketing partnerships, media partners and a lightning fast marketing cycle,” she said. “Turnkey has a big database of candidates from inside and outside of sports and entertainment. Knowing lots of candidates is easy. What’s hard is knowing which ones can (and cannot) make a successful jump from buy side to sell side. That’s Turnkey’s core strength from 23 years of attracting talent within sports and entertainment.”

Related: Executive Search Gets ‘On the Ball’ In Sports Recruitment

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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